There are lots of resources that can help you improve your chances of success, and business books are the perfect place to start. The best business books offer an accessible way to take advantage of the expertise of successful people and industry-leading companies.
Here are some of the top business books you can read right now. We’re going to look at some classics that have become industry standards, as well as some recent books from new and upcoming authors. Whether you are looking for help with marketing, finances, personal development, or starting a new business on a budget, these books are worth checking out.
8 books that every entrepreneur should read
By Stephen Covey
Originally published in 1989
Best for: Self-improvement
This inspiring self-help book is well-known and well-regarded. It has become a very popular business book across all types of industries. It provides fundamental lessons that can help you achieve your goals and guide your business in the right direction.
The book teaches a series of habits such as being proactive, setting a plan to work towards, and prioritizing your efforts. Through these habits, the author guides readers through a progression from dependence (relying on others to get what you need), to independence (being free from external influence), and ultimately to interdependence (being able to co-operate and work as a team effectively).
The author has an MBA (Master of Business Administration) from Harvard and co-founded a global training firm. He is a respected expert on leadership and organizational consulting.
By Nishan Swais
Originally published in 1999
Best for: Legal advice and knowledge
This is a reputable business book that can teach you everything an entrepreneur should know about Canadian law. It covers topics including insurance, licenses, permits, contracts, intellectual property, privacy obligations, and resolving disputes. The author is legal counsel for a multinational corporation where he provides legal advice on a range of issues.
Compared to some of the other business books on this list, this one is a little denser. But that’s because it is packed with useful information on a wide variety of complex topics.
It explains legal concepts in plain language and provides advice on best practices. It’s one of those books that you can’t afford to not read because it could help you avoid legal issues down the road. Besides, it can help reduce your need to get legal advice from lawyers, which can save you a lot of money.
By Tina Hay
Originally published in 2019
Best for: Financial advice for visual learners
This business book was published last year and has quickly become a popular choice for learning the basics of personal finance.
It’s been praised for its simplicity, as the author takes on a variety of complex financial concepts and makes them easy to understand. Some of the topics covered include managing credit card debt, saving for retirement, and what you need to start a new business.
One way the book explains these concepts is by providing infographics and sketches that demonstrate the concepts in a visual way.
Tina Hay originally came up with the idea while she studied at Harvard Business School. Many of her classmates came from the banking world, and she struggled to keep up with them when learning numbers-heavy concepts. That led her to create a visual learning strategy.
Hay later started the company Napkin Finance, which breaks down complicated financial concepts into simple lessons. Its content is available through its website and several print publications. This book is a collection of their most important lessons.
The simple, visual lessons are perfect if you’re someone who has struggled with learning about accounting and finances using more traditional methods.
By Chris Guillebeau
Originally published in 2012
Best for: Starting a business on a budget, getting inspired
This inspiring and entertaining business book will show you how to start a new business on a budget. When researching this book, the author found 1,500 people who had built successful businesses starting with a small investment (often less than $100).
He then focused on 50 of the most exciting examples and used them as case studies.
The book looks at precisely what these entrepreneurs did in the early stages to get their businesses up and running, as well as the lessons you can learn from their mistakes along the way.
It provides useful advice, examples, and checklists that can help guide your business strategies, and it does so in an engaging way. In addition to the direction, the book is sure to motivate you. It shows you how achieving success with your small business can be easier than you think.
Chris Guillebeau is also the author of other top business books, “Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do,” “The Art of Non-Conformity,” and “The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life.”
The author has also never held a “real job” as he’s made a good living by turning his ideas into income while travelling the world.
by Thomas K. McKnight
Originally published in 2003
Best for: Starting a business
This business book does just what the title says: help you figure out if a new business idea is likely to succeed or if it needs to be fine-tuned.
It does that by guiding you step-by-step through a scorecard that will evaluate 44 different aspects of your business plan. This includes things like products, competition, pricing, finance, and operations.
By helping to identify your new business’s strengths and weaknesses, the book can also help guide you on how to improve. It’s a practical resource for evaluating your business ideas. So it gets straight to the point and is most useful when you already have a business plan in mind. If you haven’t reached that point yet, check out this guide on how to create a business plan.
The scorecard is based on an evaluation system that was used in some renowned universities’ entrepreneurship courses. In those courses, students bring business ideas to the class and get help in launching them and the universities needed a way to evaluate and fine-tune those ideas quickly.
The system they developed became the basis for the scorecard in this book. The author has guided over 200 business launches and has experience as a CEO, chairman, and consultant.
Besides helping you tweak your plan before launching a business, this is one business book that can be useful to go back to again and again. For example, whenever you’re considering changing your business plan or expanding into new areas.
by Alexandra Watkins
Originally published in 2014
Best for: New business branding, rebranding, or launching a new product
This is widely known as the best business book for naming a business or product. It explains, clearly and interestingly, what makes for a good business name and the best ways to go about choosing one.
While that focus may seem a little narrow, it is a vital topic. Your business name can be crucial in making good first impressions.
But that’s not all the book covers. The process recommends choosing a name that involves looking at many aspects of your business. That includes the business’s core characteristics, target audience, brand personality, and more. So this business book is a great first step when it comes to building a complete brand identity.
The book clearly explains the process and gives specific advice on how to choose a name. It also provides some entertaining stories about brands that were highly successful and some that failed terribly.
And the author definitely knows a lot about choosing the right brand name. Alexandra Watkins is a former advertising copywriter who founded Eat My Words, an industry-leading naming firm.
By Dale Carnegie
Originally published in 1936
Best for: People skills, networking, managing employees
This book is well-respected and still popular more than 80 years after it was first published. And if you pick it up, you’ll probably see why.
The book provides invaluable ideas for improving the way you deal with people. The tips are easy to understand and apply to your own life. It also uses interesting examples from throughout history ranging from Socrates to Abraham Lincoln and Al Capone.
Dale Carnegie was a writer and lecturer who developed a series of courses about business, self-improvement, salesmanship, and more. This book was originally based on his teachings from a 14-week course on human relations and public speaking.
You might assume that the book would be pretty outdated now, but its teachings are timeless. It covers many principles to help you communicate more effectively and do a better job working with others and resolving conflicts.
The advice is useful for many aspects of starting or managing your own business, including:
- Attract clients
- Make sales
- Be successful when pitching an idea
- Manage employees
It’s been refined over the years in multiple editions. The latest version is called How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age, and it adds some information about digital tools. But it doesn’t matter what version you get, because there are only minor changes. That’s because the book focuses on some things that never change: human nature, relationships, and how to best get your point across.
By Malcolm Gladwell
Originally published in 2000
Best for: General-interest reading, marketing
This is not technically a business book, but it offers many useful lessons and insights for entrepreneurs.
The title is a reference to the moment when an idea, product, or trend crosses a certain threshold and then suddenly spreads like wildfire.
The book covers a variety of examples of the tipping point phenomenon and its causes. The examples range from the sudden drop in New York’s crime rate to the popularity of the children’s show Blue’s Clues, and the rise and decline of Airwalk shoes.
There are also sections that explain the importance of influencers and salesmen in creating tipping points, which will likely be particularly noteworthy if you want to learn about marketing.
However, as it’s not a business book, don’t expect a lot of specific advice or tips. Instead, this will give you a deeper understanding of how a business, product, or idea can suddenly take off. Figuring out how to apply those lessons to your own business is up to you.
If you like to learn, it’s a highly engaging read. By the time you’re finished, you’ll have a collection of interesting anecdotes about what causes trends to spread.
Next steps for your entrepreneurial journey
Business books are an affordable and accessible way to expand your knowledge as an entrepreneur. If you’re a business student, there are many books to help you understand business and economics. And for those budding entrepreneurs, finance books for teens are a great starting point. They can help you learn best practices, improve your strategies, evaluate your business, and develop your skills. And the top business books on this list are a great place to start. So choose which ones appeal the most to you and get reading!
This article offers general information only, is current as of the date of publication, and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.